Thursday, 13 December 2007

Getting the right viewpoint and finding your voice


New authors often struggle with finding their 'voice' and the right 'viewpoint'. Crime writer, Pauline Rowson, whose thrillers include In Cold Daylight, long listed for the World Book Day Spread The Word Prize 2008, In for the Kill and her popular marine mysteries Detective Andy Horton novels, Tide of Death, and Deadly Waters talks about her experiences.

I'm often asked why all my novels are written from the male point of view. I didn't originally intend to do this, indeed my first attempts at novel writing were with female lead characters. But I should have known then that I had an inclination to write with a male voice because I found myself much more interested in the men's actions in my books and how that impacted on others. But it wasn't until I wrote Tide of Death featuring Andy Horton that I knew this was right for me. A little light bulb flashed in my brain, something went ping and I knew I was home. That doesn't mean to say that I don't have strong and sometimes quirky and evil females in my novels because I do, it's just that I find it more exciting writing with a male protagonist. I guess it's my love of heroes and being raised on Bond films and its ilk that's done it. And then being married to a fire fighter... need I say more!

But it takes a writer a while to find his or her voice and style, and it is only by experimenting with various different genres and techniques that you find what suits you. For example, when I first wrote In Cold Daylight, it was in the third person, but it wasn't until I was revising it that I thought this isn't working. Why? So I changed it to the first person and bingo it was spot on. My thriller In For The Kill is also written in the first person, and I believe this is what makes them fast-paced and exciting. The next thriller (which I plan to start writing in the New Year, after I have finished the fourth Andy Horton marine mystery) will also be in the first person.

The Andy Horton novels Tide of Death, Deadly Waters and The Suffocating Sea (published March 2008) are all written in the third person, and they are all from the single viewpoint of Andy Horton, the main character. Everything is seen through his eyes. You follow his story, engage with his emotions and experience his actions. It's interesting to write too, because nothing can happen off the page, or away from the character. And perhaps it's because I write from the male point of view that so many men as well as women read my books. One question I was asked, by a man and another author, was - do men have any problem with me writing from the male perspective being a woman? Well, I haven't found so yet.

Finding your voice and mastering viewpoint is often a matter of trial and error and of course it depends what kind of novel you are writing and in which genre. The best way to understand how viewpoint works, (apart from writing it and experimenting) is to study best selling novels in the genre you are writing, or those novels you love. Then ask yourself which style and viewpoint will have the most dramatic impact on the reader.

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